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Poll: Young Americans Still Unfamiliar With Obamacare

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A woman looks at the HealthCare.gov insurance exchange internet site. (credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

(credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) – A recent study indicates that young Americans continue to be the portion of the population that is least familiar with the Affordable Care Act.

A reported 37 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 – a crucial demographic needed for meeting enrollment number goals set forth by President Barack Obama – say they are still not familiar with how the Obamacare law works.

“The new health care law’s success will rest at least partially on young Americans’ enrollment rates, given the need to have uninsured but healthy younger people sign up for insurance to help subsidize the cost of health care for those who are older and more likely to require benefits,” a release on the poll’s findings noted. “These young people need to be familiar with the law if they can be expected to respond to its mandate requiring them to have insurance.”

The release continued, “There is clearly still work to be done on that front – with younger Americans significantly less acquainted with the law than those who are older.”

Familiarity may not necessarily help foster enrollment. Gallup also observed that those who were more familiar with the ACA were more likely to oppose it. In fact, net approval was said to be at -19 percent among those who know how Obamacare works.

“These relationships do not necessarily mean acquaintance with the law leads one to become more negative, as the correlations most certainly reflect party differences in familiarity,” researchers noted. “Still, it is possible that if familiarity with the law increases, opinions could shift at least somewhat in a more negative direction, given the higher disapproval among the familiar population.”

The issue is merely one of many plaguing the health care law.

Counselors helping people use the federal government’s online health exchange are giving mixed reviews to the updated site, with some zipping through the application process while others are facing the same old sputters and even crashes.

The Obama administration had promised a vastly improved shopping experience on HealthCare.gov by the end of November, and Monday was the first business day since the date passed.

Brokers and online assistants in Utah say three of every four people successfully signed up for health coverage on the online within an hour of logging in. A state official overseeing North Dakota’s navigators said he had noticed improvements in the site, as did organizations helping people sign up in parts of Alabama and Wisconsin.

But staffers at an organization in South Florida and a hospital group with locations in Iowa and Illinois said they have seen no major improvements from the federal website, which 36 states are relying on.

Despite the Obama administration’s team of technicians working around the clock, it’s not clear if the site will be able to handle the surge of applicants expected by the Dec. 23 deadline to enroll for coverage starting at the beginning of the year. Many navigators also say they’re concerned the bad publicity plaguing the troubled website will prevent people from giving the system another try.

“There’s a trust level that we feel like we broke with them. We told them we were here to help them and we can’t help them,” said Valerie Spencer, an enrollment counselor at Sarah Bush Lincoln Center, a small regional hospital in the central Illinois city of Mattoon.

Federal health officials acknowledged the website is still a work in progress. They’ve also acknowledged the importance of fixing back-end problems as insurers struggle to process applications because of incomplete or inaccurate data. Even when consumers think they’ve gone through the whole process, their information may not get to the insurer without problems.

“We do know that things are not perfect with the site. We will continue to make improvements and upgrades,” said Julie Bataille, communications director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Gallup’s study was conducted between Nov. 23 and Nov. 24 of this year. A reported 1,034 American adults were selected at random to participate.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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